Over the years I have written several "book" or "booklets" and many, many, many newsletter and bulletin articles. Because the book market seeks writings to meet specific needs at specific times, my material has never been accepted. I have a tendency to write what is on my mind and so I am left with self publishing. So, with the encouragement from my wife and others, I am beginning this blog in order to put my "ramblings" "out there"! I hope you enjoy!
Please note that while my intentions are to use good grammar, because of the way in which some of the material presented here is presented (orally) the grammar and syntax might not always be the best English. Also note that good theology is not always presented in the best English so there may be times when the proper grammar rules are purposely broken.
Sunday, January 6, 2019
He Has Clothed Me - January 6, 2019 - Epiphany - Text: Isaiah 60:1-6
Today we celebrate Epiphany, the Epiphany. Epiphany marks the coming of the Magi, or the wise men to see the child, Jesus. And no, Jesus was not still in the manger in Bethlehem. Jesus was over a year old and the Magi came to a house where Mary and Joseph were living. The reason we celebrate this event, this Epiphany event, is because this is Jesus’ first appearance to anyone other than His own people, the Jews. This is Jesus first appearance to the Gentiles. The word Epiphany literally means “a moment of sudden and great revelation, or appearance.” The Gentile Magi coming to see the baby Jesus reminds us that the gift of the Son of God is for the Gentiles as well as the Jews. And one other misconception we want to clear up is that we really do not know how many Magi there were. We usually think of three, probably because of the three gifts that they brought. There may have been two, there may have been four, there may have been more. The important facts are that they were gentiles and they came and they brought gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.
Our text begins by telling us what will happen. We begin at verse one, “1Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you. 2For behold, darkness shall cover the earth, and thick darkness the peoples; but the Lord will arise upon you, and his glory will be seen upon you” (v.1-2).
God through the prophet Isaiah calls us to “Arise.” God is the prime mover. God gives us His Word, “arise,” and His Word is a word that does and gives what it says. God says “arise,” and we arise. From what do we arise? We arise from our sleep. We arise from our living in sin. We arise from our lukewarmness of the Gospel. We arise from sitting on our cheap grace.
Why do we arise? We arise because the light has come. The light promised years ago. The light promised and re-promised to the children of Israel time and time again. The Light of the World, yes, Jesus, the Son of God, God in flesh, was born. We arise to go and see the light which has come into the world. Literally, this prophecy finds it fulfillment as we see the Magi arise and follow the star which lead them to the house where the baby Jesus was living.
What is it about this light? This is the light that shined through the darkness of sin and unbelief. This is the light that the darkness has not understood nor overcome as the Gospel writer John tells us. The darkness being sin, death and the devil. The darkness, the devil has not understood nor overcome this light. The devil has not understood this light, because he cannot understand how a Creator God can love a people He has created, yet a people who have so sinned against Him, how can this Creator God love His people so much that He would send His one and only Son to suffer the eternal spiritual punishment for their sins. The devil cannot understand God’s great love nor can the devil over come this light, because the devil will never be able to overcome the power of Jesus.
Our text continues describing what the Lord will do. We continue at verse three, “3And nations shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising. 4Lift up your eyes all around, and see; they all gather together, they come to you; your sons shall come from afar, and your daughters shall be carried on the hip” (v.3-4).
Isaiah reminds us that we are drawn to the Light. These words bring rather a startling picture. I hate to say it, but it is almost like bugs being drawn to a light, a moth to a flame if you will, but that is how we are. We do not like the darkness. Oh, we do like the darkness while we are in the midst of our sinning, we like our whispering, our anonymity, because we think it hides our sinning, but it gets kind of scary after a while. We are drawn to the light so we can see. We are drawn to the light as Christ draws all people to Himself.
All people, a great crowd, is drawn. Jesus does not just draw us to Himself, He draws a great crowd, He draws all people to Himself. Here we might be reminded that when God first promised to send a Savior, this promise was first made back in the Garden of Eden. This promise was first made before there was a Jew and a Gentile, when there was only Adam and Eve. Thus, we are reminded that God’s promise to send a Savior has always been, from the very beginning a promise made to all people, so it should not surprise us that God draws all people to Himself.
And notice that it is the Lord who will do it. It is the Lord who will draw, will carry us to Himself. He is the prime mover. He says it in His Word and He does what His Word says. We do not come because of our own initiative we come because He calls us and He moves us to come. The same is true for all people, only those who are drawn are the ones who come.
The Lord through Isaiah goes on to describe what we will do on our part. We pick up at verse five, “5Then you shall see and be radiant; your heart shall thrill and exult, because the abundance of the sea shall be turned to you, the wealth of the nations shall come to you. 6A multitude of camels shall cover you, the young camels of Midian and Ephah; all those from Sheba shall come. They shall bring gold and frankincense, and shall bring good news, the praises of the Lord” (v. 5-6).
Martin Luther expressed it well in his explanations to the commandments when he started each one with the words, “we should fear and love God.” There are two sides to fear. First there is the fear of being afraid. And we should be afraid. While we are living in sin, while we are in the middle of sinning, while we remember our sins, we should be afraid because our God is a just God who hates sin and who promises to punish all who sin. We should be afraid.
But fear is not just being afraid. Fear is also a sense of awe and respect. When the Lord comes there will be awe, there will be respect. We will fear God. We will love and respect the Lord. We will love and respect Him, we will fear and love Him because of His love for us. We will fear and love Him as we reflect His love back to Him and to each other. We will fear and love God because we will share in the riches of heaven. By grace through faith in Jesus’ work on the cross, by His suffering, death and resurrection, by His clothing us in the righteousness He earned, heaven is ours. What else can we do, but fear and love Him.
What does this mean? First and foremost this means that we are saved. We, as Gentile Christians, rejoice because the great light of Jesus has shined in our lives. Jesus came not just for the Jews, He came for all people of all places of all times. Today we are so very thankful for the means of grace, the way the Lord comes to us to gives us faith, forgiveness, life and salvation. We are so thankful for the Word and the Sacraments. It is the Holy Spirit working through God’s Word which puts faith in our hearts. It is through the water and the Word of Holy Baptism that God puts His name on us. It is through confession and absolution that God speaks forgiveness into us. It is through the bread and wine connected with the Word of God in the Lord’s Supper that God gives us Himself to eat and drink.
It is God who saves us, but God does not save us for nothing. We like to hear Romans 8:28 which reminds us that in all things, good and bad (which is usually when we are reminded of this verse) that the Lord is with us. We often forget verse twenty-nine and thirty which remind us that God called us to serve Him. And we like to hear Ephesians 2:8 & 9 about being saved by grace through faith in Jesus, but we often forget verse ten which reminds us that we were saved for a purpose, to do the good works which God has prepared for us to do. Our text reminds us that we are to share the good news with other. We have the light that others need.
This morning we are reminded of what we call the third use of the Law. We are reminded by God and His Word that we are to be His people here in this place. This is not our church, not our country club, this is God’s church and we are to be God’s people in this place. We are to be about His business of making disciples. So we are not to sit around in complacency. We do not lament about what we think we do not have, grumbling and complaining against our Lord, and His church, but we are to be about His business, working and stretching, walking in faith, knowing and believing that He is with us always, even to the end of the world as He has promised. Thus we will be bold to ask of the Lord and bold to plan great things, looking to Him for the faith, strength and ability, as well as for the gifts, talents and abilities to do great things in His name in this place. So, instead of saying, “We can’t do that,” we will ask, “How can we do that?” or better, “How will the Lord help us to do that?” Instead of saying, “We’ve never done it that way before,” we will ask, “Is there a better way?” Instead of focusing on seeming obstacles we will look at the possibilities. Instead of sitting by and waiting to be asked to help and serve, we will step forward and ask, “What can I do to help?” And if we do not get an immediate answer, we will keep asking, “What can I do to help?” I believe the Lord has great things in store for us and my prayer is that He will stir in us to do the great things He would have us to do.
This morning we are reminded once again that God’s Word is so very important. God’s Word is not like any other Word. God’s Word is a Word with power. God’s Word is a Word which does what it says. God’s Word is a Word that gives what it says. Remember creation? God said, He spoke everything into being. God said and it was. God gives us His Word and His Word does what it says and gives what it says.
As Gentile Christians we do celebrate the Epiphany. We celebrate that Jesus is our Savior too. We celebrate that God loves us so much that even while we are in the middle of our sinning, He gives His Son to suffer the eternal consequences for us. And now He gives us His Word and Sacraments to be strengthened in our faith in our forgiveness in our life and salvation. Our God is an awesome God and a great light. He gives and He does and stirs in us to be given to and to be done to. He even stirs in us our response of faith to say, to Him be the glory, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.